July 6, 2022

Yilan hop 2022 day 1: capybaras!

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We didn't originally plan this trip out of Taipei today. The outing was meant to be a day-trip for lunch tomorrow to try out a brand new restaurant, which would have been a little more rushed. But as I was doing research on what to do in Taiwan, I came across a social media post from an old friend who had stayed at a hotel in Yilan, and they had capybaras on the hotel grounds. Knowing how much Sankala would love to see capybaras and to pet them, I immediately discussed adding this to our itinerary with dad, and someone got very, very excited.

I convinced the Parental Units to take the train instead of driving, so this was my first trip on the Tze-chiang Puyuma Express (普悠瑪自強號). I was dying to try one of the Taiwan Railway Bento (台鐵便當) so I booked one along with our train tickets. It's a simple lunch box with a piece of fried pork chop over rice, along with a soy egg (滷蛋), fishcake, and some veg. As dad was, predictably, hungry after only a small breakfast, he shared the lunchbox with me during our late-morning train ride.

We arrived at Yilan Station (宜蘭站) which has design elements by famed artist Jimmy Liao (幾米). I'd seen this from inside a car years ago, but now I have a chance to take a closer look.

I didn't plan or research where to have lunch before we arrived, so I spent a few minutes looking around on Google Map, and mom decided that Bánh Mì Wen (文家大姐越式法國麵包) sounded interesting. So we walked over from the station and got ourselves seated as this basic eatery, sweating without aircon on this hot day.

I ordered a bánh mì with grilled pork on sesame baguette (芝麻烤豬肉三明治). Not bad, and they even had some pork pâté in addition to the pickles and vegetables. Mom also enjoyed her sandwich, which was the important part.

We took a 20-minute taxi ride and arrived at Dancewoods Hotel and Resorts (綠舞國際觀光飯店) in Wujie Township (五結鄉). The resort is near where the Lanyang River (蘭陽溪) meets the ocean, and there's a good view of the ocean and of Guishan Island (龜山島). We got ourselves rooms with ocean view, which was pretty nice.

After resting for a little post check-in, we decided to venture out to the Dancewoods Japanese Theme Park (綠舞日式主題公園) on the grounds of the resort. This was, after all, the raison d'être of our little trip. The sun was still out around 4pm but the heat was no longer crushing. The park did have many Japanese elements, but mom noted that it didn't conform to rigid designs one would find in Japan.

It was no surprise that the highlight of our little tour would be the area where the capybaras were hanging out. After handing out the coupons to the attendant overseeing the gate to the enclosure, we walked down to the sunken area where we found 4 very cute capybaras hanging out in a small pool with a bunch of very loud ducks. The park has also set up two wooden bathtubs as if they were the male and female baths at hot springs, which was kinda cute if you could coax one of the animals into one of the tubs for a photo op.

These little guys seem to be hungry all the time, and the attendant would offer a bunch of grass for visitors to feed the capybaras, but only after the visitor has posted pictures of the animals on social media and geotagged the resort. Sankala didn't feel like having her arm twisted, so we paid TWD 50 for the grass. Mom, Sankala, and I then took turns feeding these cute not-so-little rodents.

These little guys really were very, very cute, and Sankala was very, very happy to have been able to come into contact with them. I think she went to bed with a big smile on her face...

There were also a few mongoose in a separate enclosure next to this one, but the other star attraction at the park is the group of 4 alpacas - otherwise known in some circles as "草泥馬". This is Fifi. She was as cute as the other three, who were very docile.

It was the golden hour as we strolled leisurely around the park, enjoying the greenery, the water features, and looking at the ducks resting after coming out of the water. It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, and I couldn't be happier seeing how much Sankala enjoyed herself here.

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